Running as a stress reliever

A Q&A with Northside Hospital's Nikeisha Whatley-León, LPC. 

What are the benefits of running? 

Exercises such as running benefit your mental, emotional and physical health. Staying active helps control tension and boosts the body’s ability to deal with existing mental stress. It also helps with increased productivity, boosting mood and combatting symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Other benefits of running include aiding in better sleep and getting a positive boost of Vitamin D if running outside. And it can help sharpen focus and memory. 

Running is like meditation in motion. After running, one will often find that they have forgotten their daily stressors due to being focused on their body’s movement. Feeling physically exhausted while running can help peel away life’s worries and frustrations, leading to feeling more balanced, strong and whole overall. 

Does running boost your energy?

Regular exercise can improve your energy levels and may motivate you to exercise more frequently. Activities such as running, walking, hiking, riding a bicycle and other forms of cardiovascular exercise can help your body release good-feeling hormones such as endorphins. This type of hormone may even boost your energy hours later. 

How does running affect your mood?

Regular running improves your mood and increases self-confidence. It also decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety and improves sleep. Some research has found that a 30-minute walk or run on a treadmill can have the ability to uplift your mood. If you are stressed, running can increase the amount of norepinephrine, which is a chemical that moderates the brain’s response to stress. 

Some changes that may be noticed from jogging or running include less tension, less depression, less fatigue and less confusion. Running gives you something that you can focus on, rather than just focusing on the things that are causing worry, frustration or depression. 

Some behavioral factors can contribute to the emotional benefits of running. As you watch your waistline shrink and your stamina increases, you’ll notice your self-image will improve. You’ll gain a sense of mastery and control over yourself, which will lead to increased pride and self-confidence. 

Is there a certain time that I should consider running?

You should consider running whenever you think you have a moment to do so. If you have an hour-long lunch break, then you could spend 20 to 30 minutes going for a quick run. If you are an early morning riser, then consider waking up about an hour earlier than normal. Exercising in the morning is beneficial for many people because it gets you active and ready for the day ahead. If mornings don’t work well for you, then you can opt to go for a run after work to clear your mind. If you have a dog that can keep up, it would be a positive walking or jogging partner for you. It is important to make time for exercising and include it as part of your daily schedule. Once you can make exercising a positive habit, it will become part of your daily routine. 

How do I get started if I have never run before?

You should first consult with your doctor if you haven’t been exercising for some time. You want to take it easy at the very beginning. Anything is better than nothing, so only do what you feel comfortable with. Taking walks is a great way to get you started. As each week goes by, you can start to build on both your distance and time goals. Remember to go at your own pace and speak positive affirmations to yourself throughout the process.



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Nikeisha Whatley-León, LPC picture

Nikeisha Whatley-León, LPC

Specialties: Behavior Health

Nikeisha is the system director of Behavioral Health Services at Northside.

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